It's exactly midnight and this is the first time the computer has had my undivided attention for almost two weeks.
Rewind to about a month ago. We had been having a lot typical almost-three-year-old problems with River. Talking back, doing mean little things to his sister like poking or pushing her just to get a reaction, getting into things, repeatedly not listening, blatantly disobeying... but it was constant. All. Day. Long. Our mornings, afternoons, and nights were full of him being naughty and me yelling. It was exhausting and I was losing my shit. River has always been sweet and laid back, and thankfully his antics usually end up being stages. He's not a fit thrower and his worst offences have been being too curious and too wild. But this "stage" was lasting forever, and had reached a point that left me in complete shock -- when he screamed at and hit my own mom out of anger during our 4th of July celebration. It was something he had never done before and I was mortified and confused. I did not even know how to react. I hate spanking, always said I wasn't going to spank my children, yet I found myself spanking him almost every day. Out of anger, and out of a loss of what to do. My normally very sweet boy hitting my mom was a reality check.
While I told myself I couldn't figure it out and had no clue why he was suddenly turning into such a trouble maker, I knew the underlying problem had to do with a few things. I wasn't giving him enough attention, and instead of slowing down to talk him through his problems and getting to the root of his naughty behavior, I was getting upset, yelling, speaking harshly, spanking, and banishing him to his room. Making emotional choices when I needed to be calm. Something had to change. I knew this kind of bad behavior from myself was damaging our relationship and that the problem was just going to get worse and worse, and that if I kept parenting like this, I was going to reap what I was sowing later on in life. How could I expect my child to behave if I couldn't act loving, patient, and kind myself?
About a week and a half ago, my family went out of town and we were on house and dog-sitting duty. This is always enjoyable, because my parents have cable TV and free food. ("Eat everything in the house!" OKAY I WILL TOTALLY EAT EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE.) Everyone took their laptops so I was computerless and had to rely solely on my phone for crappy internet connection, which made sure that the most time I spent online was ten minutes. By the end of the first week, I noticed an amazing change in my son and in myself. We were both calm. We were both more patient. My attention was on him and not on a screen in front of my face. When conflict arose, I dealt with it at the heart, rather than finding a quick fix. I had hardly even raised my voice. He was going to time-out less, and I spanked all but once the entire week. I was enjoying my little boy again. I was enjoying being a mommy.
The moment I realized it was the computer that was our problem was when we stopped at home for a bit one afternoon in the middle of running errands and I hopped on to check out Facebook and Pinterest. It did not take more than two minutes for River to do something annoying, and I was losing my patience with him again. I angered quickly and spoke harshly. The realization of my problem -- the problem of being easily distracted, not having my priorities in place, and practicing easy parenting; that is, reacting emotionally rather than displaying the behavior I want to see in my son -- was so monumental, that I immediately stepped away from the computer, did what I needed to do at home, and left. I needed to get away from it. I needed to redirect my focus. To simply be. To live in the small moments and recognize that how I react to my children, moment by moment, is how I shape the person my child will be.
I'm glad I had the opportunity to force myself to step away from the computer. I don't think I would have done it on my own. In a way, I knew it was a problem, but I didn't know the effect it truly had on my parenting, and I don't think I would have realized how important it was if I hadn't spent almost two weeks away from it. Now I know, and I also know that things will go back to being difficult again if that's what I choose. But I can choose differently. I know the time that my children are so small and so forgiving is so short.